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 user 2005-02-14 at 9:25:00 am Views: 62
  • #10231

    Global Warming Treaty Set to Take Effect
    NEW YORk
    ;After seven
    politically painful years, the Kyoto Protocol finally enters into force
    on Wednesday, reining in industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and
    other “greenhouse gases” in a first attempt to control climate

    The global pact negotiated in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, remains a small
    step, potentially eliminating only one-tenth of a projected 30 percent
    rise in worldwide emissions between 1990 and 2010. Its supporters
    already are looking beyond it, toward bigger steps once the agreement
    expires in 2012.

    Progress will be limited without the United States, however. The
    world’s biggest emitter rejects the Kyoto pact and balks at discussing
    future mandatory cuts. European environment ministers, key Kyoto
    supporters, say they will step up efforts this year to win Washington

    “We will continue to pressure hard for all of our international
    partners to come on board,” European environment chief Stavros Dimas
    said last Wednesday as the European Commission proposed such post-2012
    steps as extending emissions reductions to aviation and shipping. The
    Bush administration believes it is “premature” to plan talks, said
    Paula Dobriansky, a U.S. undersecretary of state.

    Scientific evidence on climate change continues to mount. At a British
    government-sponsored conference in early February, international
    experts cited melting mountain glaciers, shrinking Arctic ice and
    changes in rainfall patterns, among other effects of global warming.

    Compared with even a few years ago, “there is greater clarity and
    reduced uncertainty about the impacts of climate change,” the
    conference committee concluded.

    The global average temperature rose about 1 degree Fahrenheit during
    the 20th century. A broad scientific consensus attributes the rise
    largely to the accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the
    atmosphere, and warns of climate disruptions later this century.

    The Kyoto Protocol, an adjunct to the 1992 U.N. treaty on climate
    change, has been ratified by 140 nations, but its binding restrictions
    apply to only 35 industrialized countries, committed to reducing or
    limiting output of six gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, a byproduct of
    burning coal and oil products.

    By 2012 the European Union, for example, is to reduce emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels and Japan by 6 percent.

    The United States, which envisaged a 7 percent reduction, signed the
    protocol in 1997, but the U.S. Senate had resolved in advance not to
    accept it, citing potential damage to the U.S. economy and demanding
    that such emerging polluters as China and India be covered.

    In March 2001, President Bush also cited the “incomplete state of
    scientific knowledge” in renouncing the agreement, although the U.S.
    National Academy of Sciences subsequently endorsed the scientific
    consensus about the cause of warming.

    Because the protocol required ratification by countries accounting for
    55 percent of global emissions, the U.S. rejection left it to Russia to
    keep Kyoto alive. Moscow vacillated for years before finally ratifying
    it last November, making the pact effective Feb. 16.

    Kyoto will require governments to report regularly on compliance, and
    in some cases the prospects are dim. Spain’s emissions, for example,
    are growing three times faster than allowed.

    But “it’s too early to conclude that targets will not be met,” said
    the Dutch head of the treaty secretariat, Joke Waller-Hunter. She noted
    the EU has opted to “burden-share,” to commit to a Europe-wide
    arrangement whereby one nation’s shortcomings can be made up elsewhere.

    Key to Europe’s success will be its 6-week-old emissions trading
    system, under which governments have allocated carbon dioxide quotas to
    12,000 industrial facilities, from power plants to paper factories.
    Those emitting less gas than allowed can sell unused “carbon credits”
    to others that overshoot their targets.

    The Europeans are expected to raise the issue of deeper post-Kyoto cuts
    at informal talks this May under the broader, 194-nation U.N. climate

    The European Commission, forwarding recommendations to the EU governing
    council last Wednesday, noted that a relatively small group – the EU,
    United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, China and India – emits 75
    percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. It suggested narrower talks on
    reductions among these governments, parallel to broader treaty talks.

    Bush administration reaction was negative. “We believe that it is
    premature to establish new mechanisms for negotiating future
    commitments,” the State Department’s Dobriansky, who oversees climate
    talks, told The Associated Press. She pointed instead to U.S.-led
    programs to develop hydrogen and other new energy technologies as a
    preferred route to greenhouse gas reductions.